Tricky Talks 'ununiform' And Why he's Already Thinking About The Next Album
Tricky is on the hunt for the perfect album. ununiform may not be it (he’s already working on another project, and this one is just starting to make the rounds), but it’s damn close, touching on topics like love and death with the artist’s characteristically punk version of English hip hop. Finding his fame (which he hates, by the way) after he split with Massive Attack, Tricky’s first album skyrocketed him to the spotlight. Now on his 13th, the artist finds himself more content with life, and more appreciative of the people in his, than ever.
ununiform was born out of that contentment, but Tricky’s more interested in talking about what’s next. To say he’s forward thinking would be the understatement of the century—and that’s exactly what makes his perspective so damn exciting. MILK.XYZ sat down with the musician to talk ununiform, his label False Idols, signing Kat Graham, and more; check the full interview below.
How’s the tour going?
It’s good to get out of Canada, even though I like Canada, but three days in Canada is enough.
Is it? I’ve never been.
Oh yeah, it’s nice, but it’s very…it hasn’t got the edge. It’s a bit conservative. And it gets a bit too much. A bit boring. What it is, like in Toronto, some people just ain’t gonna understand the show. Because, even if they know my music, they won’t get the show. It’s just not traditional.
So is the tour going well so far?
Yeah, we’ve only done two shows. Montreal and Toronto, and now we’re starting the US.
What does the live show bring to the music that people wouldn’t expect?
Well, it’s just not a traditional show. It’s weird, you’ll have to see it. It’s a punk show. If you’re into the traditional show, you shouldn’t come to my show. I don’t communicate with the crowd—when I’m not doing anything I keep my back to the crowd—
Why is that?
‘Cause I’m not a clown. I’m not here to perform, I’m here to do my songs. So, it’s just weird. It’s hard to describe it. It’s a weird show.
I know the album has been out for a little bit, how are you feeling now that it’s out?
Oh no I wanna do the next one. I’m trying to stop myself thinking about the next album. That’s the hardest part, now, is to know, realistically, I’m gonna be promoting this all next year, so I have to kind of tell myself, this is it now. So all next year I have to tell myself, nothing else can be coming out.
So do you feel like you always have something to write about?
I’ve got a better album than this, ready to come out, that’s the thing. When you do an album, that last album tells you where you gotta go next. So you can tell by that album, by the time it comes out, like “Ah, I know what I need to be doing next.” So the next album is more appropriate for what I’m feeling now.
So does this album that’s out now reflect a time that’s already passed?
Yeah, it’s done. Done for me.
That’s interesting, but I think it makes sense. How long ago did you write and record this one?
Oh God…some of them are really old, and then some of them are not that old. But then most of it was recorded really recently in Berlin though. But you know it’s a three month set up time for a record. So once you’ve done an album, it takes at least three months to get it out there.
Does that drive you crazy?
Yeah, it’s just like, arghh. ‘Cause you’ve got to worry about, what if the album gets leaked, or, you know, things like that.
So even though you’ve kind of moved beyond it already, are you able to talk about what headspace you were in when you were writing?
Yeah, it’s easy to do interviews, ‘cause interviews are more like a conversation, but you always start talking about the next project.
But can you take me back to that time when you were writing this one?
Not really. ‘Cause I don’t even think about it in a way, you know? It’s done.
So you’re always thinking about the next thing.
Yeah. I’m always wanting to write. I’ve got seven tracks, now I’m thinking about vocalists. Usually I just find my vocalists really lucky, but with this one I’m kind of choosing whether to use my drummer, or this girl…do I wanna travel with a female singer, or do I wanna do my first album with a guy singing everything? And then I’ve got another project with Kat Graham, you know the actress? From Vampire Diaries. I’ve signed her to a record deal. So that’s kind of the next project.
Cool, how did you link up with her?
She sent me a message on Instagram. When someone sends me a message on Instagram usually I’m like, how fucking stupid is that, but Kat sent me a thing, and I looked at the picture, and I see five million followers. So I said, just out of interest, “Excuse me, who are you?” And she goes, “I’m an actress.” And I said, “Do you mind if I Google you, ‘cause I don’t know who you are.” And when I Googled her I was like, fucking hell. And I checked her music, and it was quite poppy, so I said, “Look, this ain’t really my thing, and I don’t want to record for another label.” And she’s like, “I’ll come on your label.” Sorted.
It’s so 2017 to get a DM on Instagram and now she’s signing onto your label.
Yeah, it’s crazy right?
So do you think she’ll be on the record that you’re thinking about right now?
No, no, we’ve got a whole different record for her. It’s gonna be her own album, but on my label.
What made you go that route, to have your own label?
When I got signed, I got signed by Chris Blackwell right. And I could just do anything I wanted. It was kind of lucky to go with a label like that—I didn’t know what the real world was. Like, for instance, the Managing Director of Island knew I was close with Chris, and someone asked him once, “Is there any albums you think Island shouldn’t have put out of Tricky’s?” And he said, “Yeah, one or two.” Now the writer said, “Why did you put them out?” And he said, “Because he’s Tricky.” So I was lucky. And then after that I was with Domino, and it was just weird. ‘Cause I’d do a demo, and then he’d have to come over to Paris, listen to the demo, before I could mix. But my thing is, how would you know if the demo was ready or not? But he’s got a thing, he’s a businessman, so he needs a certain album for his label. Chris Blackwell didn’t think like that. So after that, I dealt with a few labels, had a meeting with Interscope that was really weird, so I said to my lawyer, fuck this.
So now that that’s your situation, are you thinking bigger as far as more artists and more people to sign?
Yeah. Well eventually I’d like for the label to be self-sufficient, as in, even if I didn’t release records, I’ve got artists that are strong enough without me. If there were a time when I wanted to, say, tour and not record, or record and not tour, you know?
But do you think you would really ever stop making music or run out of things to say?
No. But I could stop. I don’t need it. I could stop tomorrow. Not being an artist wouldn’t worry me at all. I could just fade off into nowhere-ville and would not care.
What would you do?
I’d have to still be recording, but I could happily not be seen, not be heard, no problem.
I kind of heard that you don’t like the “fame” aspect.
Yeah, the fame’s shit. It causes mental illness, you know, it’s not good for you.
So I know you’ve kind of moved beyond the album already, but what were you trying to say? Like what message is there?
Nothing, really. I don’t do concept stuff. I just write. Just make a piece of music and write the lyrics and then everybody kind of has their own opinion. So if I say like this song means this, someone else might think a different way. There’s always stuff about those basic things—love, death. The same things people have been writing about for hundreds of years.
With a song like “When We Die”, is death something that you’ve always been stuck on, or did it just come up in this album?
It’s been a big part of my life ‘cause my mum committed suicide. And in those days we’d have to the coffin at home. I was four, and her coffin was next door to my bedroom. So I’d go in there and stand on a chair and look at her. And I didn’t really know what was going on, so I think I’ve always been fascinated by death, since then.
And then, is writing about a release to you, or do you still feel burdened by those memories?
No, no, it don’t make me sad at all. To be honest with you, it’s quite sad, but I feel like it’s given me writing material. So I look at it as almost…obviously, I would have liked to know my mum, but it’s helped make my career. It’s made my who I am. So if I had had my mum, I might not have been doing music. So you have to kind of look at it in a positive way. So I look at it like, she gave her life up so that I could come and do this.
Do you feel like you owe her to make the most your music career because of that?
Yeah, and I feel like I always have to mention her, and write about our experience. Yeah, I think that’s important.
I think a lot of people are scared of death, but you seem so unphased.
Oh, yeah, no. I don’t know, the only thing about death is like, I feel bad for say, my kids, and some of my family, when I go it’s gonna be upsetting for them. But for me, no, I don’t give a fuck. It’s like, I’m lucky to be alive now, I’ve been through some mad stuff. And I really enjoy life. So I think when you really enjoy life, if you love life, it’s hard to be scared of death.
You’ve had so many albums and they’re all so different—do you feel like each one is a different version of yourself?
I’m looking for the perfect album, and that might not ever come, but the journey’s fun. So I’m always looking to do that next perfect song or perfect…and I just love what I’m doing now. I love it more than I did before because I appreciate it now. How many people get to travel around the world and do what they love to do to make a living?
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